Setting up Your Supplier / Account Management Teams for Success

Over on the Strategic Sourceror, Joe Payne recently shared a story from the trenches about what can go wrong when suppliers assign too many resources to trying to close a deal. His story, which you can read here, speaks volumes to why anything "cross-functional" should not necessarily have a positive connotation attached to it. Consider Joe's experience in the context of working with a potential supplier to a company that lost business because of collaborative foot-dragging. Joe writes that in this particular case, while "the sales team we were working with was very motivated ... [but] what should have taken a day or two at most ended up taking nearly two weeks. In the end, sales, finance, and operations could not come to an agreement on the provisions ... and essentially passed at offering any additional cost reduction." Moreover, "one of the aspects of the supplier's service offering that gave them a clear service level advantage -- the cross-functional account management team -- now became a disadvantage to the customer and lowered their total score on the RFP evaluation."

What can we learn from this experience on the buy side? For one, it's critical to identify key contact points both internally (i.e., within your organization) and externally to push forward specific objectives as they pertain to getting a contract in place. But it's equally as important to not only centrally manage these activities but to also provide specific timelines and administrative oversight (e.g., a PMO function, if you will) to the entire team coordinating the effort in order to seal the deal. Much of the software currently available in the market from a sourcing perspective breaks down at this specific point between sourcing and contract award -- at least from a team-based ease of use perspective -- so it's essential to make sure that manual project management support takes the place of the previously automated sourcing steps.

What other lesson can we learn? I'm not sure I entirely agree with Joe's father-in-law that too many cooks can be in the kitchen. The key, as it is in any commercial kitchen that's humming -- Joe obviously has never cooked or washed dishes in a fine dining establishment -- is to make sure everyone understands their role and their station, keeping up their responsibilities and commitment to timing. And of course this also requires careful orchestration and management from the top. Which is why management skills from a procurement leadership perspective are more important than ever these days.

Jason Busch

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